Thursday, 28 March 2019

The Residental Possum Trapper - ahh, those issues

Eliminating possums from your suburban property in the middle of a sparkly modern subdivision is anything but simple. You might catch the odd one in a Timms trap but sooner, rather than later, you are going to hit some barriers to progress. You might even fool yourself into thinking you've got them all, or maybe that you can't win so you give up and plant your backyard in boring grass and get a dog to stop the Aussie incursions.

Is that the kiwi way? In my experience that's what many of the residents of my street did, well, the ones that had anything like a garden to be destroyed. Most people's gardens in subdivisions aren't really gardens at all. They are just the same old green sticks marching in a row around the perimeter of sections. Naturally even the Aussie furballs disdain to spend time there, seeking more delectable offerings. Complaints to the developer fell on deaf ears so folks gave up. No-one except me has ever pursued this problem in this very large subdivison.

I worked with Dave the hunter, experimenting with traps and baits and strategies. Together we negotiated past herds of curious cows, stretched our groins to the limit trying to get over wire fences to look for Aussi corpses, checked bait lines, then trap lines. In total we eliminated 16 possums and we hope we've got them all but realistically we know we might have missed some and one day they'll be back to devastate my little paradise so I'll need to stay vigilant and hope Dave will always be there to call on.

Yes, I killed at least five on my property but it took a strong stomach, tons of stress, lots of discipline and determination and, quite importantly, regular guidance from a pest professional. My souvenir that still remains is a dried out corpse behind my back fence (see photos) of one that tried to get away. But I got you, you bastard.

Please understand this: I DID NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM by putting traps in my garden. The problem has been solved by leaning on the person responsible for the whole desperate drama: getting the property developer who owns the land where the possums lived to get rid of them.

I spoke to the Rolleston Residents Association; they were surprised there were possums but then they'd all lived here for 20+years, not in a swanky new subdivision. They sent my concerns to the district councillors but none of them bothered to contact me. I spoke to an ECan staff member who told me he got only eight complaints about possums per year so urban possums aren't an issue. REALLY??? But then he went on to say we all need to work together to eradicate them as per Predatorfree NZ, and then he contradicted himself by saying public interest is fleeting so public campaigns don't really work. I told him my theory as to why he wasn't getting complaints from residents and it had nothing to do with the number of possums.

Members of my street had complained to the property developer and got nowhere. Somehow they never thought to go further and complain to Ecan, DoC (who do nothing in urban areas even though they are charged with possum eradication) or the Selwyn District Council.

I obtained an appointment with Amy Adams MP for Selwyn. We got on surprisingly well even though I will never be a National Party supporter. She's a country girl who understands a bit about possums but said she learnt a few things from me. She suggested I talk to Selwyn District Council as she felt they had the power to put conditions on approval of subdivisions, maybe to ensure they were pest free before releasing the sections for sale?

I visited the planning department at SDC and they made it clear this is not the case. There are no legal avenues whereby they can put such conditions on a resource consent to a developer. They can't even put a warning note on a PIM to alert would-be section-buyers about possum infestations so there is no warning for folks like me. You buy in good faith but maybe there isn't any of that. Conflict of interest? Probably, since SDC are in very public partnership with the developer.

Amy suggested I put some heat on Eugenie Sage, Minister for Conservation, to allow biotechnology to be developed. What that might mean would include tinkering with genetic modification. Eugenie's Green so she won't have a bar of it. In the meantime NZ's natural heritage is rapidly being eliminated. I don't like the idea of gene technology but after this possum experience I'll accept anything that saves NZ and protects what little biodiversity is left. It's use technology or lose NZ. The choice is clear and we've already lost most of it in recent times. Eugenie doesn't respond to any of my communication channels.

Without support and help from anyone I've run out of steam and paths to tread. Can't say I've had any thank yous from the residents down my street for giving them the opportunity now to have a decent backyard.

Well, at least my garden is growing, that is, except my fruit trees that were so damaged they cannot even grow normal leaves. The leaves are a third the size they should be and there is no growth in tree size. They all are a fraction of the beginner size I bought last year and the shredded leaves are still visible on my roses and camelias. Who cares? No-one, it seems, except Dave, the kind professional hunter who helped me for a time to change traps (most of which did not succeed) select bait flavours ranging from licorice through peanut butter and cinnamon and shared his knowledge, even the distasteful bits, about the secret lives of possums.

Photos include: live and kill traps. the trap line down my street behind my house,one of the offending land parcels where the nasties were based. They cohabit with cows quite well as cows keep the grass short, which the possums prefer, so it's no wonder bovines can get TB from possums.